You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of “The Umbrella Academy”.
It’s an obscure comic book series that started about a decade ago, but which has never got any solid mainstream attention. The characters are colorful, the plot is nuanced, and there’s a lot of good stuff in here. But it’s not made by Marvel or DC, so it’s always been shunned from the spotlight.
All of this is changing as “The Umbrella Academy” comes to Netflix, in the form of a new live-action adaptation. Eager to win over a nerdy comic book crowd, Netflix has been looking at several similar adaptations of lesser-known comics. The theory is that some of these properties will have enough niche brand appeal to get the ball rolling.
How well that will work in practice remains to be seen, but based on our first look at the live-action version of “The Umbrella Academy”, I’m not optimistic.
Not Weird Enough
I can’t help but look at this first image and think, “Where’s the giant monkey man?!”
— See What’s Next (@seewhatsnext) July 19, 2018
Everyone just looks so dull. There’s none of the vibrant energy of the comic books.
I’m well aware of the fact that this initial teaser has deliberately obscured all characters’ costumes. The image suggests that we’re a long way away from seeing a full reveal for “The Umbrella Academy” and all its weird and wonderful nonsense.
I suddenly find myself wondering, though, just how well comic book shows work on Netflix.
Some Stories Were Meant to be Comics
The first few seasons of Marvel’s shows are enjoyable enough, but these are deliberately very grounded, street-level affairs. As things have got weirder and more wonderful for The Defenders, the quality has dipped significantly.
I can imagine that many of Netflix’s upcoming Mark Millar comic book shows will probably work a bit better. “Kingsman” doesn’t need a lot of special effects and CGI, even if these elements certainly do help on the big screen.
As for “The Umbrella Academy”, though, I’m not sure if the comic’s design and scope will translate to the streaming screen. Unless this thing has a huge budget, it’s going to be difficult to communicate some of the big, bombastic ideas from the comic without the whole experience feeling watered down.
Believe it or not, some stories actually work better in comics than in live action. It’s almost as if completely different media have their own separate rules!